For the second time this season, the Kentucky Wildcats do battle with the Florida Gators, this time in Rupp Arena. In the last game in Gainesville, Kentucky lost when the game-winning 3-point shot from Brandon Knight clanged off the rim, and the third of Kentucky's five narrow losses on the SEC road went into the books.
Let's take a look a the season so far for both teams, as always, courtesy of Statsheet.com:
|SEC standings:||W-L Splits:||Kentucky||Florida|
|9||South Carolina||14-12||5-8||RPI 101-150||4-1||0.8||3-3||0.5|
In many ways, the Gators are a mirror image of the Wildcats, or maybe more accurately, the Wildcats as they should have been Florida has dropped only one SEC game on the road where Kentucky has won only one. The Gators have lost one game at home, and have had a number of very close shaves both at home and on the road, but in an opposure of Kentucky's season, the Gators have won all but one.
Be sure to visit the SBNation Flordia Gators blog, Alligator Army, for the Gator point of view.Personnel
Florida Gators Basketball Roster
|Adam Allen||14||F||Out for season with knee injury||222||6-8||junior|
|Kenny Boynton||1||G||Starter, 2nd leading scorer
|Vernon Macklin||32||F||Starter, 3rd leading scorer, 2nd leading rebounder, best OR%
|Kyle McClanahan||20||G||Rarely plays||185||6-1||junior|
|Chandler Parsons||25||F||Starter, 38% 3pt shooter, leading rebounder, leading asst., 39% 3-pt
|Casey Prather||24||G||Minor reserve||195||6-6||freshman|
|Mike Rosario||3||G||Transfer from Rutgers, year in residence||180||6-3||junior|
|Alex Tyus||23||F||Starter, 3rd leading rebounder
|Erving Walker||11||G||Starter, leading scorer, 39% 3pt shooter
|Scottie Wilbekin||5||G||Major reserve||175||6-2||freshman|
|Will Yeguete||15||F||Minor reserve||210||6-7||freshman|
|Patric Young||4||F||Major reserve, 1st off the bench
Not much has changed since the last time Kentucky played the Gators, but Chandler Parsons has become the do-it-all player in conference, shooting 44% from three, leading the team in rebounds both total and offensive, steals, and assists. Chandler Parsons is the key to this Florida team.
Florida: Adam Allen is out for the season
Kentucky: No known injuries
Four Factors Analysis
Kentucky leads the Gators in three out of the Four Factors, but only very narrowly. The Gators are a slightly better rebounding team than the Wildcats.
- Point Guard: Push. Brandon Knight is more talented and taller than Erving Walker, but Walker is more experienced and a demonstrated clutch performer.
- Off Guard: Push. DeAndre Liggins is a better defender than Kenny Boynton, but Boynton is a dangerous scorer who has hit his stride lately. Liggins has struggled with decision-making, but his energy, length, and intensity are indispensable for this Kentucky team.
- Small Forward: Advantage Florida. Chandler Parsons has been incredible in conference in every aspect of the game. He leads the team like a senior should, and is the Gators' Swiss Army knife. Darius Miller has shown signs lately, but on paper, this is advantage Gators.
- Power Forward: Advantage Kentucky. Terrence Jones may be young, but he can score and defend well enough to be worthy of player of the year consideration in the SEC. Alex Tyus is a solid SEC power forward, but he is no Terrence Jones.
- Center: Push. Amazing to say, but Josh Harrellson has been so good this year that he is one of the best pivots in the league. So is Vernon Macklin. Macklin is more of a scoring threat than Harrellson, but Harrellson is a much better rebounder and slightly better defender. I can't believe I just wrote that, but it is the truth.
I still say this Gator team is soft. But that hasn't stopped them from winning games, and that's as much a testament to their team chemistry and excellent coaching as anything else. Say what you want, Florida wins basketball games, and at the end of the season, that's what gets you high seeds and deep into March.
Chandler Parsons is the straw that stirs the drink in the Gator cocktail. Parsons makes plays, and that is perhaps the highest praise that a basketball player can receive. Parsons gets rebounds, shoots threes, defends, leads, and generally does everything that Billy Donovan could ask a player. Considering only the SEC portion of the season, I think Parsons deserves serious consideration for MVP. I can't imagine the Gators would be .500 in the league without him.
Kentucky must find a way to limit Parsons' effectiveness, and frankly, I have no real idea how that could be accomplished. Parsons is too big for Miller, too strong for Liggins, and neither of them were affective against him in Gainesville. But if you want a key to the game, Parsons is it. If he plays well, the Wildcats are in trouble.
Erving Walker is another problem for the Wildcats. This kid is not the greatest decision-maker, and is a volume shooter, but he is a clutch player who makes big shots for Florida. Walker is relentless in the way he puts pressure on the defense, and he never takes a play off on offense.
But Kentucky is not without weapons, and for me, the key to this game is, as it has been all year, defensive intensity. When this team plays with determination on defense, they are beating teams easily, regardless of matchups. Kentucky can shoot, rebound, and execute with the best of them, particularly at home. The combination Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones, and Doron Lamb are tough to stop, and even though Kentucky lost down in Gainesville, they very easily could have won. You'd have to think the return match slightly favors the Wildcats, if only for the significantly bigger home advantage Rupp Arena provides.
But Florida finds ways to beat teams, and that the hallmark of a division leader. It isn't always pretty and it's never smash-mouth, but the Gators just manufacture winning plays that put W's on the record. That's the most important, and from a Kentucky standpoint, most troubling statistic of all.
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